By Tena Lee
The Hendersonville Standard
HENDERSONVILLE —A 14-year ministry aimed at preventing Sumner County residents from going hungry won’t be ending after all.
Sumner County Food Bank Executive Director James Gill first told the Hendersonville Standard in early January that the non-profit that distributes food to an estimated 1,000 Sumner County families each month would likely close in April if another church or non-profit didn’t take it over.
Gill, 80, said in January that he had contacted 19 different churches and help agencies about taking over the food bank, but so far no one had come forward.
First Baptist Church of Hendersonville senior pastor Bruce Chesser announced to his congregation on Feb. 6 that the church’s leadership team made a recommendation day earlier to take on the ministry.
“We will assume ownership and responsibility of the Sumner County Food Bank,” said Chesser. “We are asking you to affirm that.”
Chesser’s announcement was met with a standing ovation at all four church services.
The pastor noted that FBCH has given $138,000 to the Sumner County Food Bank over the last 20 months to help cover its needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That troubled us that the Food Bank would not be there for people who need it,” Chesser told his congregation.
Begun in 2008 as a ministry of Liberty Baptist Church, Gallatin, where Gill is the senior pastor, the food bank has grown from feeding 51 families to serving between 800 to 1,000 families from across the county.
The non-profit gives 100 pounds of food to Sumner County residents in need on the third Tuesday of each month at its facility on Woods Ferry Road in Gallatin.
Chesser said the day after the announcement that the food bank will officially become a part of the church’s ministry on April 1, but not at the food bank’s current location.
Liberty Baptist Church, which bought the Woods Ferry Road property in 2013 for $275,000, listed the property on Jan. 10 for $849,900, according to information on Realtracs.com. The property is currently under contract.
The Sumner County Food Bank will still distribute food at its Woods Ferry Road location on Feb. 22 and March 15.
“Their last food giveaway is March 15,” said Chesser. “We are going to strive to not miss a month, even if that means we need to have a modified distribution.”
Chesser said the church hopes to make an announcement in two to three weeks about a new location, or locations, as well as a new director.
The church is exploring ways to distribute food at various sites throughout the county rather than have one central pick-up location, added Bruce Raley, the church’s senior associate pastor.
“We’re also hoping to do some modifications where people can sign up and maybe set an appointment rather than line up in their cars,” he said.
Food distribution sites will be announced in March, Raley added.
Both pastors said they didn’t want to see the work of Gill and his church go unnoticed.
“We do want to say how much we appreciate the ministry of Liberty Baptist Church and Pastor Gill for the last 14 years,” Chesser noted. “It’s our desire to pick up that mantel and carry it on.”
Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown said she’s glad to see the food bank stay open.
“I’m grateful for anyone who is willing to help keep the Sumner County Food Bank going because it’s so valuable to so many in our community,” she said.
Gill could not be reached for comment, but announced on Facebook that an agreement had been reached with First Baptist Church of Hendersonville.
“We’re still us until the last day of March,” he said. “And then the curtain drops.” B&R